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Three-Year Gold Award Winners for the Governor’s Civic Engagement Award

September 25, 2020 09:30 AM
By: None

Three-Year Gold Award Winners for the Governor’s Civic Engagement Award

​The Governor's Civic Engagement Award recognizes high schools for high levels of voter registration among eligible students. For a school to earn the Gold Award, at least 85 percent of eligible students must be registered to vote. Three schools have earned this honor every year of the program so far: Carlisle High School in Cumberland County, Northwest Area Junior/Senior High School in Luzerne County and Wyoming Valley West High School in Luzerne County. The Department of State reached out to the educators who have led voter registration efforts at these three schools to ask them to share some of the secrets of their success. 

Vito Malacari, Northwest Area Junior/Senior High School


How do you introduce the topic of voter registration to your students?

What makes your students get excited about voting and elections?

I introduce the topic through my American Government class. Registering to vote has become a part of my curriculum with all seniors. We talk about registering to vote when we discuss constitutional principles, and it is a great segue for them to see the Constitution in action. The excitement comes from allowing students to see that their voices matter, and they can make real change in the world. The excitement for the 2020 election and other presidential elections is palpable from the first day of school for every student as they want to weigh in on who will win. 

How do you get students to register to vote? 

I get my students registered to vote by using my class as the platform. Students in some classes volunteer to explain why voting is important to them and encourage their peers to register to vote. In each of my classes, these students come and help students navigate online voter registration. This allows us to register almost every student in the senior class and do it without losing lots of class time.  These students come in handy when a peer gets stuck on registering or needs to print a form and mail it in. They understand the process and help with everything from printing to labeling the envelope to getting it in the outgoing mail.  

What is one piece of advice you would give another educator who wants to help students at their school register to vote, but doesn't know where to start?

Start a conversation with your students. Be open and honest. Allow them to debate each other about why they want to vote or who they want to vote for so they can understand that we may have differing opinions, but we can be civil. Don't shy away from the discourse or the big topics, just dive in. 

Kevin Wagner, Carlisle High School

 

How do you introduce the topic of voter registration to your students? What makes your students get excited about voting and elections?

We are part of the senior class meeting kick-off at the start of the school year to introduce students to voter registration. 

We also come back around in early January and produce a short video presentation on the importance of registration and voting that plays for a week on our school-wide TV program sent out to all classes prior to first period.  Finally, we try to have a voter registration table set up in the cafeteria at least once a month to keep the momentum going throughout the entire school year.

How do you get students to register to vote? 

We typically do both methods of voter registration: handing out paper forms and having computers available for online registration. One of the best programs we started this past year was sending out a birthday card to each senior on their birthday with a voter registration form inside. These went through their English teachers since all seniors have an English class; the English and Social Studies teachers are a MUST to have on your side. When it gets down to the last month, we send out a list of students still not registered to respective teachers, and they do a fun push to get more registered. Throughout all this process, a core group of 8-10 students are the managers and organizers of all drives and events. We try to meet at the start of each month to organize and stay on track.  We tend not to bring in any outside speakers or groups, unless we know them to be non-partisan.  

What is one piece of advice you would give another educator who wants to help students at their school register to vote, but doesn't know where to start?

Find a core group of students who are passionate about government and politics and use them to your advantage. These young people will be the driving success of your program. They tend to come up with very clever and creative ways to encourage their peers to register. In the end, I have found this generation is very passionate about voting and politics in general, so you may be surprised at how easy it can be!

Anthony Dicton, Wyoming Valley West High School

 

How do you introduce the topic of voter registration to your students?

What makes your students get excited about voting and elections?

At the start of every school year since beginning this initiative, I send out a list of eligible students to the social studies teachers and ask them to discuss registering to vote. I also set up a table near the cafeteria for a week. 

What has helped get students excited now is the fact that we are keeping our Gold Level streak alive. The current political climate is helping, too.   

How do you get students to register to vote?

As mentioned, I get students who are eligible for November's election registered at the beginning of the year. I do a registration drive twice a year, and I announce almost daily for a week about registering to vote in the morning announcements. I also send daily emails with my roster, and I highlight names of students who registered. Other teachers become involved by congratulating students who registered, which then excites and reminds other students they still need to do it. Students help with registering students during lunches. But honestly, having the roster and updating and sending it daily really excites everyone as we get closer to the 85% goal for GCEA. That has been the biggest driver in getting students registered to vote the past three years for our building.   

What is one piece of advice you would give another educator who wants to help students at their school register to vote, but doesn't know where to start?

It is a lot of work for a district our size, but after the first year, I figured a few things out and had students helping more once I got it off the ground. The entire school benefits in the end. I also always tell students who don't want to vote, or don't know what party affiliation they want to put, that you don't have to vote, but you will have the option and you can always update and change party affiliations. I try to give them very basic breakdowns of the history of each party and where they stand on issues historically. 


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